Tuesday, May 24, 2011

VIDEO: Stand with Carmen - Sign our petition to Chevron now!

Carmen Zambrano is one of the 30,000 men, women and children of the Ecuadorian Amazon who continue to suffer the disastrous effects of Chevron's greedy, reckless and polluting oil operations.

Carmen's suffering and that of her family has transformed her from a quiet and reserved mother into an unlikely – and courageous – community leader speaking out for all those struggling to survive amidst Chevron's widespread oil contamination.

Carmen traveled outside Ecuador for the first time last week, coming to the United States to press Chevron to take responsibility for the poisons the company has abandoned in her rainforest home.

At Chevron's shareholder meeting tomorrow we want to deliver a petition with 30,000 signatures – a signature from a supporter like you, standing up for each of the 30,000 people in the Ecuadorian Amazon demanding justice from the oil giant.

As I write this we have 20,000 signatures and need 10,000 more to reach our goal.

Please sign our petition now in solidarity with Carmen and the other mothers who fight for a healthy and jhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifust future for their children.

– Han

Han Shan is Coordinator of Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign

Monday, May 23, 2011

Amazon Watch and RAN Demand Justice from Chevron, Hundreds of Feet in the Air

Daring activists from Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network rappelled from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in the San Francisco Bay Area this morning to hang a 50-foot banner demanding justice for Chevron's crimes in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The banner, which reads "Chevron Guilty: Clean Up the Amazon", brings attention to the recent Ecuadorian court ruling that found Chevron guilty of its contamination and liable for up to $18 billion.

Chevron has refused to pay up and remediate in the Amazon, despite global pressure from NGOs, investors, and concerned citizens. The banner, hung nearby to both Chevron's Global Headquarters in San Ramon and its heavily polluting refinery in Richmond, raises awareness for the case just days before Chevron's annual shareholders' meeting this Wednesday.

Also in time for the meeting, a delegation of Ecuadorian indigenous and campesino leaders have arrived in the Bay Area after visits to New York and Washington D.C., to demand on behalf of the thousands of victims in the Amazon that Chevron take responsibility for its actions and abide by its legal obligation to repair the toxic damage that has caused a massive public health crisis affecting thousands of people.

Today's display of direct action demonstrates that Chevron will continue to be pressured until it fulfills its legal duty to the Amazon. The Ecuadorian victims are incredibly courageous people who have been fighting tirelessly for two decades to see justice served, and neither they nor their partners at Amazon Watch will rest until Chevron faces up to its responsibility and rights the wrongs it committed in the Amazon.

– Alex

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Carmen Zambrano: Mother & Community Leader from Ecuadorian Amazon vs. Chevron

With passport hiccups and plane ticket changes and communication difficulties, it took days for Carmen Zambrano to get from the Ecuadorian Amazon to Quito and onto a plane bound for Washington DC. Finally, she arrived in DC to meet the other two Ecuadorian delgates – Servio and Humberto – and ready to tell her story of living with the calamitous effects of Chevron's contamination.

But for Carmen, the trial of traveling from the Amazon rainforest to the U.S. capital is nothing compared to the daily impact of living amidst the environmental devastation sown by Chevron in the oil boom-town of Shushufindi, the ancestral territory of the Siona people. Around dinners with family and during visits with neighbors, the conversations are littered with condolences for a loved one suffering from cancer, advice for a mother whose child is growing up with developmental disabilities, debate over which stream or well has water that is less laced with toxins.

Carmen has now come to the United States to share her story, and to press Chevron to take responsibility for its toxic legacy in her community, and the Amazon region of Ecuador.

Watch and share this brief video profile of a humble mother, and now a community leader by necessity, Carmen Zambrano. And, if you haven't already, please sign the solidarity petition!

– Han

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Honoring Parents who Died of Cancer, Servio fights for Environmental Justice in Ecuador

It's already been a busy couple days for the Ecuadorians who have come from the Amazon to the U.S. to tell their painful stories of living with the legacy of Chevron's contamination in their lands. On Tuesday and Wednesday in New York, Secoya indigenous leader Humberto Piaguaje and representative of the farming communities in the region, Servio Curipoma, met with reporters, lawmakers, shareholders, and supporters, running between interviews and meetings and presentations with barely time to breathe.

In the first couple of whirlwind days, Servio, who is traveling outside Ecuador for the first time, has displayed an infectious and inspiring mix of courage, poise, energy, and heart. Whether talking to supporters or reporters, he deliver his message with a sincerity and urgency that is impossible to discount [see this post from earlier today, which includes a short video profile of Servio].

His urgency comes from the realization that he and his loved ones are surrounded by poison every day, and that every day more people in his community fall ill. And beyond the courage and poise and sincerity is also a deep and abiding sadness that seems inscribed deeply upon his hearty soul.

Before a meeting with journalists today, Servio spends a quiet moment with a photo of his mother, who died of uterine cancer in 2006. Photo by Caroline Bennett

Servio lost both his mother and father to cancers that their doctors blame on exposure to poisons caused by Chevron's reckless pump-and-dump oil operations in their lands. Today in New York, he told a group that he came here to the United States in order to honor the memory of his parents, whose deaths he mourns daily.

And so, over the last couple days, Servio has carried a book with photos and a story about his late mother, Rosana Sisalima [read a profile of here on this blog]. The photo-book has served as a touchstone for him, reminding him of the injustice of losing his mother too soon, and watching her wither away. Only a few years before her premature death, she had watched with anguish as her husband — Servio's father — a farmer like his son, succumbed to stomach cancer at the age of 64. And then, only a few year later, uterine cancer took her. She was 66.

Uterine cancer victim Rosana Sisalima with her granddaughter at their home in San Carlos on November 24, 2004, shortly before she died. Photo by Lou Dematteis.

Crude Reflections, the book Servio carries, documents almost 15 years of the effects of Chevron's contamination in the Oriente region of Ecuador, and the communities' inspiring struggle for justice. Published by City Lights Books, the book is by photographers Lou Dematteis and Kayana Szymczak, with interviews and stories written by journalist Joan Kruckewitt. It is a powerful document, and you can buy a copy here.

I write this update from a train bound for Washington DC. Servio & Humberto and my colleagues at Amazon Watch ran to catch the train with minutes to spare, and early tomorrow morning, our meetings and outreach efforts resume. After a couple days in DC, we're on to the San Francisco Bay Area to continue our efforts ahead of Chevron's shareholders meeting.

There, Servio Curipoma will confront Chevron's leadership, driven to spare anyone else the pain and rage he has felt at having his parents stolen from him by an oil company's disregard for his family's humanity. Stay tuned.

– Han

Han Shan is the Coordinator of Amazon Watch's Clean Up Ecuador Campaign

Servio Curipoma Arrives in New York to Tell His Story

From a sweltering Amazonian town surrounded by former Texaco oil fields, Servio Curipoma, a cacao farmer, arrived last evening in New York City to tell the story of how an American oil company devastated his lands and drinking water, causing a public health crisis that continues to this day. Servio lost both his parents (his mother's heartbreaking story is told here) and a sister to cancer that doctors have attributed to drinking water contaminated by toxic crude waste. Since that time, Curipoma has become an active voice for his community over the past 14 years, demanding that Chevron take responsibility for the contamination that has so profoundly affected his family.

Please watch and share this short video. A brief, but powerful look into the life of one man – and another example of how Chevron (formerly Texaco) turned the northeastern Ecuadorian Amazon into a crude oil wasteland.

And, if you haven't already, please sign the solidarity petition!

Servio is part of a delegation of two other inspiring leaders from the Ecuadorian Amazon, traveling on behalf of 30,000 affected people in Ecuador, to demand that Chevron finally own up to its responsibility in Ecuador buy cleaning up its toxic legacy.

Over the next week in New York, DC, and San Francisco, Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network, will be organizing public events, briefing with lawmakers, pension funds, and the media as part of an international campaign to hold Chevron accountable.

Please share this short video, and sign the solidarity petition! We hope to garner 30,000 signatures over the next week to support each and every man, woman and child affected by Chevron's toxic legacy in Ecuador. We will deliver these petitions signatures at Chevron's shareholder meeting on May 25th in San Ramon, California.

– Mitch

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Open Letter to the US from the Ecuadorian Amazon: Stand with Us to Demand Justice from Chevron

Please watch this powerful Open Letter to the people of the United States from the communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon who are fighting to demand Chevron clean up the massive contamination of their rainforest home.

Then, SIGN THE PETITION in solidarity with the communities demanding justice from Chevron.

Please share this petition on facebook and twitter (and anywhere else) to help us get 30,000 signatures, or one signature for each of the approximately 30,000 men, women, and children in the Amazon who continue to suffer from Chevron's toxic legacy in the Amazon.

A delegation of Ecuadorians and supporters will deliver your statement of solidarity directly to Chevron leadership and shareholders at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on May 25th.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ecuadorian Delegates Ready for Long Journey to the U.S.

In less than one week, Amazon Watch and our allies at Rainforest Action Network (RAN) will be supporting a delegation of courageous indigenous and campesino leaders as they journey from the remote Ecuadorian Amazon—area tragically affected by Chevron/Texaco’s harmful oil operations—all the way to the United States. The three delegates will travel on behalf of more than 30,000 affected people to New York, Washington DC, and finally to Chevron's backyard in the San Francisco Bay Area to demand that Chevron satisfy the judgment handed down by an Ecuadorian court ordering the company to pay to clean up its contamination, and to provide clean water and health care facilities for affected communities. Along the way, they will will meet with reporters, lawmakers, institutional investors, shareholders, and civil society allies, building support for their inspiring efforts.

The three delegates are poised to expose the wrongs committed by Chevron/Texaco, as all three have experienced the terrible legacy of the company’s operations in their own communities.

Secoya tribal leader Humberto Piaguaje has seen his tribal group decimated by horrific contamination that has resulted in forest loss, displacement, and cultural degradation—when at one time the Secoya population numbered in the thousands, now only about 350 remain.

Delegate Carmen Zambrano has witnessed the illnesses that have ravaged her community, the deaths of family members, friends, and neighbors, the murder of community members, and the raping of local women. Her own children are terminally ill and developmentally disabled.

Serbio Curipoma has lost both of his parents and a sister to cancer, attributed to the crude waste in local drinking water, and he and his remaining family members suffer from myriad health problems, owing to the fact that their home sits directly atop an unremediated covered oil pit.

All three delegates are courageously standing up to a giant corporation to demand that Chevron obey the court’s orders and pay for all the damage it has caused. While each recognizes that no amount of money will bring back the dead, they continue to work tirelessly in their struggle for justice, so that their children’s children can live a life free of contamination.

Secoya leader Humberto Piaguaje

Campesino leader Carmen Zambrano

Campesino leader Serbio Curipamo

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is Chevron Deceiving Shareholders About Its Liability in Ecuador?

Today, a significant report was released at business sustainability conference CERES in Oakland. The independent report, commissioned by Amazon Watch and our allies at Rainforest Action Network, was written by two experienced corporate governance and shareholder advocacy experts, Simon Billenness and Sanford Lewis.

The authors highlight the vast disparity between Chevron's disclosures to its shareholders and its sworn legal statements about the "irreparable damage" the company faces from potential enforcement of the $18 billion judgment against the company in Ecuador. We are sending this powerful document to California lawmakers, stock analysts, public pension funds, university endowments, institutional investors, and other public interest organizations nationwide, and it will be sure to grab the attention of many of these parties.

Amazon Watch Corporate Campaigns Director Mitch Anderson has written a post about it at the San Francisco Chronicle's City Brights blog, which I'm posting in its entirety below.

-Han, Amazon Watch

Mitch's post at the City Brights blog:

Chevron Faces Significant Risk in Amazon Controversy

Chevron Corporation, the second largest oil company in the United States, was found guilty earlier this year by Ecuadorian courts for massive environmental contamination of the Amazon and was fined upwards of $18 billion. The company has vowed to fight the verdict "until Hell freezes over."

This is an unwise approach for many reasons. First, and principally, because it is immoral. There are tens of thousands of people in the Ecuadorian Amazon who are suffering a massive public health crisis as a result of Chevron's (previously Texaco's) reckless pump and dump oil operations in their once pristine Amazon homelands. The people of Ecuador have the legitimate right to clean water and good health. Why would Chevron pour millions of dollars into a litigation and public relations strategy designed to condemn them to such misery? Secondly, it is unwise because it implies that Chevron will be fighting this lawsuit forever, mired in a costly and protracted -- and yes eternal -- legal Vietnam. Doesn't seem to make good business sense.

Today, an independent report, An Analysis of the Financial and Operational Risks to Chevron Corporation From Aguinda V. ChevronTexaco, by well-known corporate governance experts Simon Billenness and Sanford Lewis, confirms that Chevron's current scorched earth approach to the Ecuador litigation is fundamentally misguided. Released at a major institutional investor conference in Oakland, CERES, the report poses big questions around Chevron management's handling of the Ecuador disaster, concerns around the failure of the Board of Directors in executing their fiduciary duties with respect to the multi-billion liability, as well as raises fundamental questions about the wisdom of Chevron's "Hell Freeze" litigation and publication relations strategy.

According to the report, the plaintiffs in the Ecuador case have a strong case for enforcement of the Ecuador verdict in countries worldwide where Chevron has assets, which could lead to abrupt asset seizures in places like the Phillippines, Singapore, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina. The report also warns that Chevron's current litigation and public relations strategy could threaten the company's "social license to operate" around the world:

"Chevron needs both legal permission from governments and "social license to operate" from local communities where the company is bidding to exploit new oil and gas fields...the notoriety of Chevron as an irresponsible operator {could} increase opposition by governments and local communities to granting Chevron legal and social license to operate in new areas."

The report also reveals that Chevron management appears to be caught up in a duplicitous web of lies, on the one hand confessing in sworn testimony the "irreparable harm" that the Ecuador verdict poses to their business interests, and on the other hand obfuscating the risks in their public filings and statements to shareholders.

For instance, the report cites sworn testimony by Chevron Deputy Comptroller Rex Mitchell explaining that:

"the seizure of Chevron assets, such as oil tankers, wells, or pipelines, in any one of these countries, would disrupt Chevron's supply chain and operations; and seizures in multiple jurisdictions would be more disruptive. Defendants' campaign to seek seizures anywhere around the world and generate maximum publicity for such acts would cause significant, irreparable damage to Chevron. Unless it is stopped, Defendants' announced plan to cause disruption to Chevron's supply chain is likely to cause irreparable injury to Chevron's business reputation and business relationships that would not be remediable by money damages."

The report goes on:

"While Chevron has admitted in sworn legal statements that the company is at risk of "irreparable injury to [its] business reputation and business relationships" from potential enforcement of the Ecuadorian court judgment, the company has failed to characterize these risks to the company in its public filings and statements to shareholders."

As the Corporate Campaigns Director for Amazon Watch, the environmental and human rights organization that has been spearheading an international corporate accountability campaign on Chevron for the last decade, I have been following Chevron's handling of the Ecuador disaster very closely.

It was refreshing, and even a bit heartening, to read this report because it suggests that, for Chevron, doing the right thing in Ecuador - that is, funding a full scale remediation and providing health compensation for communities - will actually help the company minimize the escalating financial, operational and reputational risk that a protracted and aggressive litigation strategy would entail. Doing the right thing in Ecuador makes good business sense. Chevron management and Board of Directors should read this report carefully. I know their shareholders will. Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network are sharing the report with California lawmakers, stock analysts, public pension funds, university endowments, institutional investors, and other public interest organizations nationwide.

Friday, May 6, 2011

US judge plays global judicial police chief to help Chevron fight justice in Ecuador

A couple days ago, international human rights attorney par excellence Marco Simons of EarthRights International posted some analysis of oil giant Chevron's latest tactics to evade accountability for its oil disaster in Ecuador. In the wake of a February court ruling finding Chevron guilty of massive contamination in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Marco looks at the various ways the company is trying to avoid paying the $18 billion dollars in compensatory and punitive damages ordered by the judge who delivered the verdict. The Chevron Pit blog beat me to blogging Marco's astute analysis, so I'm going to re-post in full their blog from yesterday. Note: Marco's last name is Simons and not Simon, as mistakenly used below.
Amazon Watch

The post, from The Chevron Pit:

"I'm not aware of any case where a court has ever even tried to restrain foreign plaintiffs from enforcing a foreign judgment in foreign jurisdictions."
"...even if Chevron wins the enforcement battle in the US, that doesn't end the matter, because the plaintiffs will go to other countries to enforce the judgment. The plaintiffs only need to win once or a few times, while Chevron needs to win everywhere."
Interesting observations from Marco Simon, Legal Director of Earth Rights International, about Chevron's effort to escape the $18 billion Ecuadorian judgment in U.S. federal court.

As Simon points out, Chevron wants an American judge to rule that the Ecuadorian judgment is unenforceable so the oil giant has a legal tool to use in foreign courts to prevent the Ecuadorians from obtaining the award by seizing Chevron's assets in foreign countries. (Chevron has no assets in Ecuador.) To get that ruling, Chevron has to jump a few legal hurdles, like -- Can an American judge tell Ecuadorians what to do, and can the American judge tell other countries' court systems what they can and can't do? Only time will tell, but Simon is exactly right when he says Chevron will have to convince dozens of countries (where Chevron has assets) that an American judge can tell their judges what to do.

Simon wrote:

"The Ecuadorians can go after Chevron in the US, but they can also try to enforce the judgment in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, and dozens of other countries where Chevron operates or has assets. Not surprisingly, Chevron is working hard to prevent that….
"...Chevron's entire case is premised on the notion that Judge (Lewis) Kaplan (the American judge) has jurisdiction over the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and other members of the plaintiffs' class action. That is a highly questionable position, and one that will receive considerable scrutiny from the Second Circuit. Even if Judge Kaplan can prevent the American lawyers from proceeding to enforce the judgment, if he doesn't have jurisdiction over the Ecuadorians, he cannot prevent them from going to other countries to seek enforcement."

And, then there is the nagging issue of Chevron's asking Judge Kaplan to act as the world's judiciary police chief.
"The Second Circuit may also be concerned with the propriety of interfering with foreign countries' judicial processes. I'm not aware of any case where a court has ever even tried to restrain foreign plaintiffs from enforcing a foreign judgment in foreign jurisdictions."
Simon also reminds us that Chevron is getting what it asked for:
"Chevron has every opportunity to challenge the judgment in the Ecuadorian courts; Chevron chose to litigate in Ecuador over the plaintiffs' objection, and the Second Circuit may well hold them to that choice. In fact, in a recent decision in a related case, the Second Circuit said that Chevron was bound by its original promise to satisfy any judgments in Plaintiffs' favor, reserving its right to contest their validity only in the limited circumstances permitted by New York's Recognition of Foreign Country Money Judgments Act."
Given Judge Kaplan's comments about Ecuador, its court system and the Ecuadorians themselves, no one thinks he won't rule for Chevron. His bias is obvious. Other judges in other countries may not share his sentiments, however.
"Ultimately, even if Chevron wins the enforcement battle in the US, that doesn't end the matter, because the plaintiffs will go to other countries to enforce the judgment. The plaintiffs only need to win once or a few times, while Chevron needs to win everywhere. Even Chevron wins twenty cases, just one loss could cost the company hundreds of millions or billions of dollars," wrote Simon.